Tony Laiolo – Gift, Returned


At Tenx9 Nashville’s November 2015 event “Sorry”, Tony Laiolo shared a story of the sorriest costume he had ever seen…

Late one night, since I was neither sleeping nor working, I was doing what I do the other third of the time — waiting at a stoplight. It was the one in Nashville that eventually lets you onto 21st in the dead zone between the bright lights of Hillsboro Village and the dim bulbs of Brown’s Diner, and I’d been there for approximately eight hours. About average.

There were no other cars, but I wasn’t completely alone. Off to my right was a pedestrian, a young man wearing a large box. His head was visible, and his arms and lower legs, but that was it. Mostly box.

I should point out that it was Halloween. Any other night this guy is stopped for questioning, gets the flashlight in the face. “What’s in the box, kid?” This one night of the year, though, he was free to waltz around looking just as goofy as he wants, and while he wasn’t exactly waltzing, he had the goofy part down.

I couldn’t help thinking, “Well, that is the sorriest costume ever.” The box was bad enough, but his hangdog expression clinched it — like maybe he’d come to the same conclusion I had about his “ensemble.” If I put down the window and yelled “Happy Halloween,” I was pretty sure he’d start to cry.

Now, truth be told, when it comes to costumes, I’ve got no room to talk. My “best” costume ever was without question a bowling shirt I found at Goodwill. Seriously. Over the breast pocket, normally enough, was the name “Sam,” but across the left shoulder, embroidered in flowing red script, it said “Romeo.” So I wore the bowling shirt, rocked a red toothpick, and went as “Romeo from Joliet.”

And that was the best one. Usually I’d just dress all in green and go as a tree. Dogs loved me.

So, no room to talk. Like that’ll stop me. BoxGuy finally got the “Walk” signal and started self-consciously crossing in front of me. It’s a wide intersection and I was in the inside lane, and as he got nearer I saw what I couldn’t see before — the ribbon and the bow. “OK, you’re a gift box. Congratulations. That is still the sorriest costume I’ve ever seen.”

I pictured him earlier in the evening, taping and tying himself together. “This is so cool, this is so foxy.” Maybe he imagined a pretty girl purring, “I want to unwrap you.”

But maybe what he thought was “foxy” was really more along the lines of “boxy,” and maybe his romantic imaginings obscured other, more practical concerns he would have done well to consider. Like “can you fit through a door? Can you even sit down?”

It’s entirely possible he could do neither and spent the whole evening out in the garden, shivering with the smokers and trying to look cool while leaning awkwardly against a tree. And he might have forgotten one other important point. In fact, if a pretty girl said anything to him, my guess is, “Good luck going to the bathroom.”

As he trudged past my windshield all I knew for sure was that his night had gone horribly wrong. This gift, crafted with such care, had been rejected, returned, and now had to take itself back where it came from, all alone in the world — except for one smirking wiseguy stuck at a stoplight.

But right about the time I was considering the phrase “be there or be square,” he finally made it past me and I could see the back of the box. And there, attached to this sad symbol of unwantedness, was the final element of the costume, a large gift tag, which said…..

“To Women. From God.”

…and at that moment two things happened: 1) “Romeo from Joliet” knew he’d just had his little Halloween butt kicked to the curb by “God’s Gift To Women,” and 2) the sorriest costume I’d ever seen became just jmaybe the best.